Jay Thomas, a native of Seattle, is a versatile multi-instrumentalist (trumpet, flugelhorn, alto, tenor, soprano and flutes). His music could be described as earthy and lyrical with the blues and swing always in evidence. Jay grew up in the fertile atmosphere of Seattle’s 60’s jazz scene sometimes subbing for Quincy Jones alumnus Floyd Standifer while still in high school. Clubs such as the “ H.O.E.” otherwise known as the House of Entertainment and the Black and Tan and the Llahngaelhyn figured prominently in Jay’s early years of trial and error music making. The end of 1968 saw Jay move to New York where he worked and studied for several years. Highlights include gigging for a summer with Machito’s Latin band, recording for James Moody on the Perception label, and taking private lessons with Carmine Caruso. Three years later Jay added flute and tenor to his repertoire. Through the mid-seventies while living in the S.F.Bay Area Jay met Jessica Williams and went on to record on three of her CD’s.
Jay moved back to Seattle in 1978 and became a frequent member of the house band at Parnell’s Jazz Club working engagements with jazz artists George Cables, Charles McPherson, Bill Mays, Ralph Penland, Harold Land, and Slim Gaillard. At Parnell’s, Jay became friends with jazz masters Zoot Sims and Sal Nistico, among others. Jay’s first two CDs, Easy Does It on Discovery Records and Blues for McVouty on Stash Records featured Cedar Walton and Billy Higgins. 360 Degrees on Hep Records and Rapture on Jazz Focus continued to establish Jay’s reputation. Jay’s previous CDs from McVouty Records titled Live at Tula’s, Volume 1 and Volume 2 and 12th and Jackson Blues were live performances and have the feel of the clubs where Jay was first baptized into the world of jazz. Jay recorded with Herb Ellis on Roll Call and with Bud Shank on On the Trail. This was the last recording by Conte Condoli and Jay is playing tenor and soprano sax in a sextet setting with Bill Mays on piano, Joe LaBarbara on drums, Bob Magnuson on bass, and of course Bud on alto.
Two recordings have Jay teamed up with jazz greats Ray Brown (Blues for Dexter, Wolfetones Records) and Elvin Jones (Jones for Elvin, Hip City Records). Jay has appeared in concert with the bands of Maria Schneider, Bill Holman, and Frank Wess. He has played festivals at Wolf Trap with Red Rodney and Ira Sullivan, the Aspen Jazz Festival with Herb Ellis, Jake Hanna and Mel Ryne (recorded with them on Roll Call), the du Maurier Jazz Festival with Chuck Israels Trio and with the Jay Thomas Quartet. Jay toured Great Britain with jazz legend Slim Gaillard recording there with Slim, Jay McShann and Buddy Tate. In the summer of 2002, Jay again traveled to Europe, this time with the Bud Shank Sextet featuring Plas Johnson. Today Jay is a member of one of Japan’s leading big bands, CUG (Continued in the Underground Jazz Orchestra), and co-leads a sextet with Kohama Yasuhiro and Atsushi Ikeda. Jay tours in Japan, recording and performing, several times a year. Jay is also a member of SRJO (Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra) and also has a Neo- Boogaloo Hard Bop band called “The Cantaloupes”.
Jay is also involved with passing the music on to future generations. He is an adjunct professor at Cornish College of the Arts, and works at the renowned Garfield High School, tutoring kids in improvisation. Jay often does clinics and workshops at universities in the US and Japan and is an instructor in several prominent jazz camps each summer.